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"They were stacked in there in those gaps, just waiting for the keeper," said Royal. "But Marvin kept it, and they stopped him cold, and we had to kick. When he came out I told him we'd have made a bunch if he'd pitched it. But he said, 'Coach, we didn't need a bunch. We already got seven and Tommy's not gonna let them get anything, and I didn't want to risk throwin' it away.' I thought a minute and said, 'Man, you're just as right as Superfox.' Sure enough, we kicked, they fumbled, and we got seven more the easy way."
As a defender. Nobis could not have played for a man more dedicated to the virtues of sharp, fundamental line play than Darrell Royal—or in a system where it is better taught. Royal and his top aides—Jim Pittman, Charley Shira and Mike Campbell—have been together for 10 years, and they are still young (average age: 40) and energetic. Young enough, in fact, to keep changing their methods and organization with the times. "If we coached the way we did five years ago, or even two years ago, I'll guarantee you, they'd have our gunnysacks," says Royal. Change comes in the subtleties—timing, technique—that the spectator seldom can detect. It comes with working on new tricks for old traps, better ways to read plays, simplifying assignments, improved drills to defeat a block and reach the ballcarrier.
The Longhorn defense consists of three vital parts—the down four linemen, coached by Shira, the ends and linebackers, coached by Campbell, and the three-deep secondary, or the hull, coached by Willie Zapalac. "The only time we're ever together as a team is when we work on short-yardage or goal-line defense," Royal says.
Texas devotes spring training and all of the early two-a-day workouts before the season to doing what it does best—its timing and rhythm, its area blocking on offense, and the remarkably simple procedure of meeting and defeating blockers on defense.
"We don't teach stunts," Royal says. "Oh, we know a few to stir some folks up now and then, but on defense we teach 'em to meet the guy and try to whip him and get to that ball. Take Nobis. He doesn't key on anybody. He plays the ball and, man, does he love it when one of our ends turns somebody back into him. I can't think of anything he likes better. Me, too. But these things are taught by Charley and Jim and Mike and the rest. I'm the pride coach."
Exactly what that entails is Royal's secret. One thing a visitor to a Texas practice notes quickly is that a Texas coach would rather turn down an invitation to the LBJ Ranch than holler at a player who has made a mistake and embarrass him in front of the squad. "When you do that he has to swallow his pride," Royal says. "And that's the thing I want him to have more than anything else. He can't afford to lose any of it. We'll take him aside and tell him what he did wrong or show him in a film, not by pointing out what we did wrong but by joking about something the other team did. You can usually pick out a lazy old boy on the other team."
So the practices are simple, if not fun for everybody, once Texas' season begins. Monday is a holiday for the players who got in the game the previous Saturday. Those who did not must scrimmage the freshmen in a brawl called the Flush Bowl. Tuesday the defense is set, and Wednesday the offense. Thursday is all timing and rhythm, and Friday is 30 minutes of laughter plus a private talk from Royal, very often without even the assistants around. "I don't know what he says," sighs Jones Ramsey, "but I say that's where he wins the games." And after Royal talks the captains take over, the coach turning his back and strolling off like an artful matador.
Tommy Nobis talks longer on Fridays than most Texas captains have before because he's the unofficial self-appointed pride coach. He had so much pride and took his football so seriously in high school in San Antonio, for example, that he got up at 5:30 every morning, rode a bus, transferred, rode another, then walked, just to attend Thomas Jefferson High (the school that produced Kyle Rote) even though another school was located only a few blocks from his home.
"In San Antone you can attend any high school you want to," Tommy explained last week in Suite 160 of Moore-Hill Hall, an actual captains' suite, fixed up by Royal for Nobis and Kristynik, complete with hi-fi, TV, a living room, bedroom, view of Memorial Stadium and—soon to come—burnt-orange carpet, no less. " Jefferson had the best coach [Pat Shannon] in town, I thought, and the best program, and it was worth it to go there."
A freckled, pink-faced, red-haired, soft-voiced senior studying speech and physical education—he wouldn't cop out by claiming he's anything but a P.E. major—Nobis said honestly, "See, football is my life. It always was. I want to be a coach. You go to college for a lot of reasons, to be an engineer or a lawyer or a doctor, or something like that. And you study hard to become successful. I study and go to classes so I can play football. Football-is my work, what I want to be. Now, if I'm not good enough in school, I can't play football. Shoot, I'm pretty poor in a lot of subjects, but I like history, it's interesting, and it's just that I have to stay after it to make decent grades. It's gettin' harder and harder to get into a good university like Texas, and harder to stay in. I try never to miss classes. It shows I'm interested and tryin'."